Legislator, governor. Sheppard was born in Edgefield District on July 5, 1850, the son of James Sheppard and Louisa Mobley. He attended Bethany Academy and Furman University. He then read law with several distinguished attorneys, including U.S. Senator Matthew C. Butler and long-time S.C. Attorney General Leroy Franklin Youmans. For more than fifty years, he and his brother Orlando had the most successful law firm in Edgefield County. On May 22, 1879, Sheppard married Helen Wallace. They were the parents of eight children.
In addition to his law practice, Sheppard served as director and president of the Bank of Edgefield, director of the Edgefield Farmers’ Loan and Savings Bank, and director of the Edgefield Ginning, Milling, and Mining Company.
During the tumultuous 1876 gubernatorial campaign, Sheppard campaigned actively for the Democratic ticket. He was elected to the South Carolina House that year and participated in the anti-Republican Wallace House until the withdrawal of federal troops in March 1877. He then continued as a member of the General Assembly and was reelected for two more terms. He served as Speaker of the House from December 1877 until 1882, when he was elected lieutenant governor. When Governor Hugh Smith Thompson resigned on July 10, 1886, Sheppard became governor until November 30, 1886. Meanwhile he lost the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination because he lacked the support of the growing Tillman movement.
A conservative Democrat, Sheppard openly opposed Tillman and his reformers. He challenged Tillman for the governorship in 1892 and was defeated in a particularly nasty and bitter campaign. Despite Tillman’s seemingly all-pervasive influence in Edgefield County, Sheppard was elected a delegate to the 1895 Constitutional Convention and as the county’s state senator from 1899 to 1904. In 1900 he was elected president pro tempore of the senate and held the office until 1904. After a fifteen-year hiatus, in 1919 he won a special election and for two years was once more the senator from Edgefield. Sheppard died in Edgefield on October 17, 1931, and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Bailey, N. Louise, Mary L. Morgan, and Carolyn R. Taylor, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985. 3 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.